Is a child like a lump of clay to be sculpted into a beautiful vessel by the parent, or a seed to be nurtured into maturity?
Like many, during the first few years of parenting, we were bombarded by well-intentioned literature and counsel on how to parent. Desiring to raise our kids to love the Lord, we consumed all of it, wanting above all to "do it right". Heavy laden with scripture and adult "examples" of what certain training methods would yield if implemented correctly, we gave ourselves entirely over to them.
For two painful years, we pushed and pressed our babies and toddlers into the mould we had been told would produce lovely, well-formed vessels, useful for the purposes of God. The problem? They didn't fit.
As we began to search in earnest for what would work, we began to take notice of who our children were. As we assessed their individual strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, and responses, we began to realize that whatever we were looking for was not going to be found in any one school of thought, or in any one book for that matter... unless you are talking about The Book.
Going back to the Word of God, we began to search the scriptures for what God had to say about parenting. While hovering over Ephesians 6:4, the word "training" stuck out to me. Other translations render it "nurture," but none say "mould" or "sculpt." The Bible uses gardening words for parenting! In other words, parenting is more like gardening than pottery.
My husband has a greenhouse full of five or six different varieties of tomatoes he began from seed. After sowing the seeds in early spring, the little tomato plants began to poke their heads through the soil, put on leaves, and reach up towards the sun.
At this point, they all looked the same. They all needed the same basic care of misting, sunshine, and protection from the cold. As they grew, we were able to detect slight differences between the varieties, such as leaf style and colour, stem thickness, and overall shape; but they all still simply needed water, air, healthy soil, and sunshine. The unique attributes became only more pronounced as they continued to grow, and while the basics stayed the same, it became quickly apparent that certain varieties were going to need special attention if they were going to not only bear fruit, but even survive!
One variety was getting well over four feet high, and top heavy; as these awkward plants continued to climb yet another two feet before reaching maturity, a rescue operation of pruning and staking was employed lest the stems snap and the plants be destroyed. Another variety was fairly drowning in the water that it's neighbour seemed to never have enough of, so the watering had be regulated for each tomato plant's needs.
It would have only done harm if my husband had simply scowled at the non-conformist plants and insisted they follow the Wathen tomato program whether they wanted to or not, "As long as you're under my greenhouse roof...!"
Children are like seeds. Contained within them is the unique genetic code that will determine what they will become, regardless of the gardener who plants them. This is their personality. God gave us each a unique set of attributes that make us uniquely who we are.
The specific environmental conditions the little seed finds itself in will only influence how fully it will reach it's own potential. The purpose of the gardener is to ensure that each seed grows to maturity to become exactly what it is designed to be. The purpose of parenting is to so nurture our children that they grow up into the special individuals that God made them to be.
We were each created with a unique purpose for our lives, written into us by the Creator Himself. The wonderful stewardship of parenting is the opportunity to come alongside a precious young life and tenderly train them to follow the special plan that God designed just for them.
As for you and me, we are already "grown-up," and whatever our parents did or didn't do to help us reach our full potential is besides the point now. When we placed our trust in Jesus Christ, based on His finished work on the cross, our old nature was done away with... put to death. "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me..." (Galatians 2:20)
You are now a "new creature" entirely. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17) This does not mean that your personality has changed, but that it is been "reborn" in Christ, with His character and attributes now apart of your DNA! As you grow more like Jesus by His Holy Spirit at work in your life, you will become who God designed you to be and discover the unique purpose God has for your life.
Both parenting and personality play a role in who a person will become, but it is ultimately the Designer Himself who will complete the good work He began in us and bring us to full maturity in Christ. Rest in His finished work, and let God do what He promised in His Word: "Therefore, being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will complete it until the Day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6) Amen!